The third installment of Richard Paul Evans’ #1 New York Times bestselling series Michael Vey - Michael Vey 3: Battle of the Ampere - was released today. And this morning on radio, Glenn candidly opened up about his first encounter with Richard and the series.
“We know now that in the early years of the 20th century this world was being watched closely by intelligences greater than man’s, and yet as mortal as his own, we know now that as human beings busied themselves about their various concerns, they were scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacence people went to and fro over the earth about their little affairs, serene in the assurance of the dominion over this small spinning fragment of solar driftwood which by chance or design man has inherited out of the dark mystery of time and space. Yet across an immense ethereal gulf, minds that are to our minds as ours are to the beasts in the jungle, intellects vast, cool and unsympathetic, regarded this Earth with envious eyes and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.”
Those were the words spoken by Orson Welles on Halloween eve. Just when the world was on the precipice of war, those were the words of Orson Welles, Mercury Radio Theater, War of the Worlds. But for me they carry different meaning.
It was summer, and I was 7, and it was a beautiful summer day, and I was inside watching television. And until Seattle where it rains almost every single day, the day that you can, quote, see the mountain today, end quote, is the day that all good kids should be out playing outdoors. My mother came down and she said, “Turn off the TV and go outside and play.” And I don’t even remember what I was watching, probably some stupid Gilligan’s Island rerun or something. And I said, “You watched TV when you were a kid,” as I slammed off the TV and marched out of the room. And that’s when she said, “Excuse me, young man?” And I said, “Sorry.” She said, “No. What did you just say?” And I said, “That you watched TV when you were a kid.” Then she uttered the words that changed the course of my life: ”No, I didn’t. We didn’t have TV. We had radio.”
On my 8th birthday, I got a copy of the Columbia Broadcasting System’s War of the Worlds, and at 8 years old I listened to that thing over and over again, and for the first time my imagination was on fire. I could see the metallic creatures that were vaporizing the troops in Trenton. I could see the fog roll into New York. I recognized my imagination was much more powerful than even the imagination of Walt Disney, who was bringing to me and my house for the first time stories in living color. Color is much more vivid in your head than anything that can be done in Hollywood.
Fast‑forward, last spring. My son is addicted to video games, and I have other issues with video games. I run now a radio network and a television network, but the thing that I love probably more than anything is the individual’s imagination and the power of books.
I received a phone call from a good friend of mine, a guy who helped me fix the ending of a Christmas Sweater because I wrote the real ending and Simon and Schuster at the time didn’t even want to print this book, and they hated the ending and I didn’t know how to do an ending that wasn’t the real ending. I didn’t know how to fix it. And I called this guy because he’s a genius and we talked on the phone and he said, “Wait, wait, wait, wait! I have it. Let me call you back.” And now that’s the ending of the Christmas Sweater.
And so as we were getting ready to leave Fox and we were deciding exactly what we were going to do, we were in negotiations with Simon and Schuster on a new deal, and I had decided that I no longer wanted to do just my books; I wanted to be able to tell great stories and find great storytellers and tell their stories and let them actually tell the stories and not have to be told exactly how to tell a story when I know how to tell a story and so do most writers. But then somehow or another New York gets involved and then wrecks it. And my phone rang after we signed this deal with Simon and Schuster and we hadn’t even announced it yet and it was my good friend who helped me with the Christmas Sweater. And he said, “Glenn, I have a series of books that are so great, and everybody I pitch it to, they say it’s too smart for kids.” And I said, “Richard Paul Evans, I have been praying that we could start telling stories and we could raise the bar a little bit.” The name of that first story that he sent to me was I believe Michael Vey and the Electric Cheerleader. And I read it and I said, “Richard, I love all of it, except the name.” And we changed that to Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25.
Now it’s in its third book. It’s out today. And last night I was reading with my son and we’re just, like, four chapters away from the end, and they’re short chapters, and my son actually said to me, “Dad, read quieter.” And I said, “What?” And he said, “If the Mom hears us, she’ll come in and I’m supposed to be asleep. Read quieter.” And we have been reading, and he loves it, and so do I. The new book is Battle of Ampere.
Richard Paul Evans joined Glenn on the radio program to discuss the Michael Vey series and what it is like to create books that are so appealing to both children and adults alike. There is a tremendously underserved market when it comes to young adult fiction, and the Michael Vey series has been able to fill some of that void.
“I would never sit down and read a Vince Flynn novel with my kids. You know, there’s just no way I’m going to read a Vince Flynn novel to my kids because it’s too intense and just too much violence and everything else for my kids. I like Vince Flynn novels,” Glenn explained. “You told this takeover of this ship in such a way to where it was absolutely real. It had everything in it that would happen but yet you told it in a way like Hitchcock would tell it. I had no problems. I was thinking about it in the break. I had no problems reading that part of the book with my kids, none. Because it was Hitchcock.”
“One of the things I’ve learned, especially because my readers tend to be very sensitive and now I’m dealing with their kids and my own children are going to read it,” Richard said. “You know, you don’t have to put a swear word in there. You can say he erupted in a string of profanity. You know, you want to represent these people correctly. They’re not, ‘Oh, my gosh.’ You know, it’s like, ‘Oh, my gosh, you shot me.’ It’s like it has to be correct, but there’s ways to do it that are tasteful and that leaves it more to the imagination, and I think that’s the beauty of it. It’s the imagination.”
There are still intense and potentially frightening parts of the plot, but Richard’s storytelling has allowed the series to remain age appropriate, while simultaneously respecting the intellect of its young readers.
“Don’t get me wrong. It is scary and it is intense, but it is not inappropriate,” Glenn said. “You wrote it in such an artful fashion that I also, as an adult, didn’t feel cheated. I didn’t think, ‘Oh, you know, this is a kids book. Boy, wouldn’t that be good if it was…’ it was good. It was good for them and good for me. That’s real skill.”
“One last thing, and I just want to get this across that this is not a mission book. This is a good story, a great story. The added benefit is Richard and I both believe that kids are much smarter than we give them credit for, much smarter than the media gives them credit for,” Glenn continued. “Why do we treat [kids] like they’re morons? [Richard] doesn’t. And the other important thing is that we both believe that the power of the imagination is the strongest thing that we have in our favor. That Americans and all people can imagine anything. And if they can imagine it and see it, they can make it happen. And we are losing our imagination. And Richard is working hard to bring it back, and you’re doing a fantastic job.”
Richard explained that he is inspired by a quote that hangs on his wall: “Our lives are much more influenced by imagination than circumstance.”
“Michael Vey, it is the third book in the series… If you’ve been reading it, today is the day that you can finally begin to read the third installment with your family,” Glenn said. “Pick it up because there’s seven in the entire series and we’re not even halfway. And you’re gonna love this ride with your family. Michael Vey, available in bookstores or wherever books are sold today.”